Monday, May 3, 2010

After School Special Story Regarding Pennies and a "Secretaries' Week" Luncheon

In college, I worked as a waitress for lunch and as a hostess for dinner during the summers at a very high end seafood restaurant. I picked up a few valuable etiquette tips while waiting on one particular table of ladies during Secretaries' Week in the summer of 1981. The ladies called ahead of time to make a reservation for eleven, which is the best thing I can say about the following experience waiting on these nice, well intended women.
The table of eleven arrived 25 minutes late. It was raining. After being seated, they then changed their minds and wanted their raincoats, hats and umbrellas checked. So, I checked each coat and accessory for each lady and brought each lady the coat check chit. Everyone had multiple special menu requests during and after their individual orders: no croutons, dressing on the side, no dressing, extra dressing, no onions, no bacon, extra bacon, no eggs, and they were only ordering salads to have as their meal. This complicated meal of only salads and tap water went on and on for 2 1/2 hours.
Finally, just when I thought the meal was over, someone at the table took a cake out of a box they had quietly brought into the restaurant! Politely, I brought out a serving knife, plates and forks for the cake. Then the gift bags and presents appeared! Birthday wishes. Birthday singing. Birthday toasts (with the table water). Coffee was ordered. Regular and Decaf. Extra cream. More cream. No cream. Pink packets of sugar everywhere! More coffee refills. More creamer. More pink packets. At this point, I was seeing pink!
My Mother and Sister came into the restaurant in the middle of my waiting on this busy table to surprise me and eat lunch. As I served them and as they enjoyed their lunch, my Mother watched as I tirelessly, politely and patiently waited, waited and waited on these nice, well intending women.
One woman at the table then asked for eleven separate checks. Each lady had 1 salad and 1 cup of coffee. Each tab was brought to the table separately, and I brought each tab to the cashier, then returned the tab with change, and exited. Then, the long discussion ensued regarding the tip. Unknown to these ladies, my Mother, still sitting at the next table, was listening! How much should they each leave to the nice young girl for the tip? Yes, it was 1981 and prices were different. The large salads were about $4.95. The coffee was around .95 cents. The ladies had a nice time and thanked me upon leaving.
My tip totaled .11 cents for each separate customer. I thought my tip at almost 15%, was fine. My Mother had a different opinion. One dime and one penny placed at each place for 2 1/2 hours of hard work. Also, leaving a penny on the table as part of a tip??

My Mother heard this and thought she would burst! Leaving a penny on the table is rude! It is considered to be a terrible insult in Europe. It signifies that the service was more than insufficient, rather, horrible. Leaving a penny on the table is frowned upon even within the restaurant business in the USA. It is also considered to be bad luck for those who are superstitious.
No coat check tip was left, at all.
My tip, I thought, was sufficient, until my Mother spoke up after these ladies had gone. She had the following tips for me (and suggestions for the day manager) which still apply today:
  • One of the Ladies should have assumed the responsibility of group leader or hostess.
  • Coats and accessories should have all been checked upon arrival and the coat check tip should have been taken care of ahead of time.
  • The party should have arrived on time.
  • One check should have been agreed upon before the meal began. The Group leader should have paid with one credit card ahead of time, then settled up with each lady afterwards.
  • The tip should have been paid by the group leader in hand to the waitress and not left on the table in change form.
  • Pennies should never be left on the table as part of a tip for any reason, ever!
  • The tip should have been at least 18% - 20% as it was a large table of eleven persons and because this table took up the entire lunch time.
  • Menu extras, exceptions, additions and subtractions should have been stated as each order was placed.
  • Bringing a Birthday Cake into the restaurant should have never been done. Also, what an insult to the chef and management of the restaurant!
  • The birthday bows, wrapping paper, boxes and tissue paper should have been cleaned up by the group leader, not left all over the place for the waitress to clean up.

Take charge, plan a bit and make your office luncheon nice for everyone! Thanks Mom!!

1 comment:

  1. Wow. I think only ex-waitresses can feel the pain here. Reminds me how happy I am not to be waiting tables any more...but it is excellent training! Take care!


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